In response to recent allegations made by County Manager Wendell Davis against Commissioner Heidi Carter, The Durham Association of Educators is joining prominent Durham leaders Mike Lee (School Board Chair), Jillian Johnson (Mayor Pro Tem), Vernetta Alston (City Council), and the People’s Alliance PAC in support of Ms. Carter. We do so with deep gratitude for Heidi’s many years of tireless work as an outstanding advocate for our students and our public schools.
Furthermore, we reject the implication that Ms. Carter’s professional dissent or her perseverance in pursuit of full education funding have sinister racial motivations, and we are saddened by the double standard that scrutinizes or attempts to silence the ardor and accomplishments of female leaders in a society so deeply damaged by sexism.
We reaffirm, without reservation, our strong endorsement for Heidi Carter’s reelection.
As an organization strengthened by the skilled leadership of two Black women and primarily composed of women and Black members, The Durham Association of Educators takes these attacks very seriously. Already, in the context of this election cycle, some in the Durham community have sought to dismiss and erase the powerful leadership of our own Black leaders, including President Michelle Burton, Vice-President Turquoise LeJeune Parker, and Board members Symone Kiddoo, Lindsay Johnson, Deborrah Bailey, and Malcolm Goff.
DAE is committed to both defending and transforming public schools. We believe it is critical to recognize the attack on Ms. Carter as an attempt to derail the election of a public servant who has been doing this work alongside us. We recognize the importance of standing firmly, and publicly, together with leaders who use the power vested in them by a democratic process to strengthen public schools as inherently democratic institutions, and resist efforts to weaken or privatize them. We need our elected leaders and public servants to deliver for our students. Based on her strong record, Heidi Carter is a proven leader we can count on to do that.
Each day we are honored to work with brilliant, caring, wonderful young people who our state leaders have devalued in budget, after budget, after budget. Enormous pressure is heaped on educators to help students grow and learn while class sizes continue to grow, and funding from the state continues to dwindle. We need more funds for EC services to support students with special needs. We need major investments in our ESL services and substantial changes in how we support newcomers and English Language Learners. We need more funds for reading and math interventionists and to restore instructional assistant positions that have been cut over the last ten years. We have custodians, cafeteria staff, and bus drivers that have not seen a raise and are among the only state employees in North Carolina that don’t make a $15 minimum wage. DPS needs some $700 million in capital improvements for school construction and renovations.
While we cannot speak directly to comments the County Manager claims he has experienced, such comments do not square with our own experiences of Commissioner Heidi Carter. Heidi has always listened well to DAE’s Black leaders and treated us with dignity and respect. When she needs something from our organization, she calls President Burton because she trusts her, values her insight, and respects her role as the leader of our organization. Ms. Carter has a long track record in fighting for equity and social justice, particularly in the form of her deep commitment to increasing country funding for DPS – a district whose student body is 41.6% African American, 32.8% Hispanic/Latino, 81% Students of Color. In three of the four years before Ms. Carter was elected to the Board of Commissioners, per-student funding from the County for DPS steadily declined. In each of the years Heidi has served on the board, per-pupil expenditure has continuously grown. This trend is not coincidental; it is directly related to Heidi’s persistence and leadership. She is fighting to get a desperately needed school construction bond on the ballot this November, and we are confident that she will continue to take similar steps in the future.
County Manager Davis, on the other hand, has not always been a strong supporter of Durham Public Schools. As recently as August 2019, the County Manager recommended that the County Commission underfund by $140 million a ten-year capital needs improvement request from DPS.
Manager Davis also proposed school funding levels below what DPS requested in 2016 and 2017.
Perhaps most frustrating is that Mr. Davis’ ongoing rationale for wanting to deprive our schools of resources lands so closely to the arguments put forward by school privatizers who are the biggest threat to public schools. Mr. Davis cites the achievement gap as justification to curb spending, when in fact we know that, while these challenges cannot be completely solved at the school level, they can be ameliorated through increased funding, staffing, and programming. The evidence is clear that DPS must do better in supporting and educating Black and Latinx students, and to do this we need both transformational approaches like the community schools model, and additional resources from every level of government.
DPS students are depending on a collaborative county commission to provide vision and stability so our schools will have the necessary funding. We believe that Heidi Carter is an integral part of that board. We stand with Heidi, and support her bid for reelection.